SEATTLE, March 18 Boeing Co technical
workers voted by a wide margin to ratify a new four-year labor
agreement with the company, ending the possibility of a strike
that could have cut production at a critical time for the
A strike by just technical workers could have slowed or even
halted production of Boeing airplanes, with the workers key to
solving engineering issues on the factory floor.
It also could have complicated a wide-ranging review of
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner by the Federal Aviation Administration
and a probe by the National Transportation Safety Board, after
charred batteries on two 787s prompted a grounding of the entire
fleet in January.
Last month, a second, larger SPEEA bargaining unit
representing 15,500 professional engineers narrowly accepted a
"The votes by technical workers and engineers in recent
weeks will allow us to come together and focus on the challenges
and opportunities we face this year," Boeing Commercial
Airplanes CEO Ray Conner said in a statement.
Members of the technical workers bargaining unit voted 4,244
to approve the contract and 654 voted to reject it, with two
abstentions, union representatives in Seattle said after votes
The technical workers are represented by the Society of
Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA).
The decision announced on Monday ends a contract negotiation
that began nearly a year ago.
Last month, the technical workers, a bargaining unit with
about 7,500 members, narrowly rejected the same contract and
authorized union leaders to call a strike.
The professional engineers also authorized the union to call
a strike, but that decision became moot because the contract
they approved prohibited workers from striking while a contract
is in effect.
That would have meant the technical workers would have
struck alone had they walked out.
The contracts covering both groups provide 5 percent annual
pay raises in each of the next four years, up from 3.5 percent
for technical workers in Boeing's original offer.
The contracts eliminate a pension for new hires, leaving
them with a 401(k) plan. Current workers have both a pension and
Some of the technical workers may have voted against the
offer last month because they earn lower salaries than
professional engineers and are more concerned about their
retirement savings, the union said.
Technical workers earn about $79,000 a year on average,
while professional engineers earn about $110,000.
"Like most new employees at Boeing, technical workers and
engineers will now receive the company's 'enhanced 401(k)' and
not the defined benefit pension," SPEEA said in a statement.
"By the end of the new agreement, SPEEA-represented
technical workers, and also the engineers, will have received
eight straight years of 5 percent salary increase pools, with
guaranteed minimum wage increases each year of the contract."
The pools provide money to distribute among employees for
raises of varying amounts. All workers are assured a minimum